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The explosion in popularity of hoverboards and self-balancing electric scooters several years ago brought both the attention of consumers, and the attention of safety regulation groups including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), especially after reports of fires and frequent accidents involving the new vehicles came to the surface.
While California and New York City both passed laws regulating the use and sale of hoverboards and other states and cities considered the same, hoverboards also started to be looked at in the context of Congress’s OSHA act from several years before that, which involved ensuring safe conditions in the workplace, Here’s how OSHA and the CPSC could affect hoverboard regulation in workplaces such as construction sites.
Congress introduced the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA in 1970 to guarantee safe and healthy working conditions in all industries by creating and enforcing safety guidelines, rules, and standards for the workplace and providing training, education, and outreach for the integration of those standards.
Under OSHA law, employers bear full responsibility legally for providing safe workplaces for employees and staff, and for reporting to the authorities any violations of those standards, or injuries resulting from such violations.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was created to support Congress’s Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972. The Commission’s function is to develop safety guidelines and standards for consumer products and to enact recalls for consumer products found to present significant danger or risk to the health and safety of the consumer. Lastly, it allows for bans to be placed on products where no other alternative is deemed effective.
In 2015 and 2016, responding to reports of fires caused by hoverboards with cheap batteries and accidents due to inconsistent design standards regarding hoverboard speed limits, calibration, and other manufacturing issues led the CPSC to investigate such occurrences and see to what degree there was a significant danger to riders.
While the reports on these investigations led to hoverboard-specific legislation in the State Of California, New York City and other cities and states considered such legislation, no specific new regulations or laws have been passed in relation to hoverboards or self-balancing electric scooters in the workplace- OSHA’s primary area of concern. That’s likely to change, however, as hoverboards continue to be popular nationally and are increasingly found on worksites and in offices.
Though the name "hoverboard" goes back to the film "Back To The Future II" as a reference to the futuristic levitating skateboard the film's hero rides, modern hoverboards are classified as "self-balancing electric scooters." An internal gyroscope measures the balance of the device while motors maintain the vehicle's balance and provide forward momentum.
The CPSC may reach out to manufacturers as specific concerns or investigations dictate, themselves based on consumer reports and customer feedback. However, manufacturers are encouraged to reach out and build a working relationship with the CPSC themselves to ensure open communication and help facilitate a continuing industry-wide dialogue regarding safety both in the workplace (as it relates to OSHA), and manufacturing standards focused on consumer safety.
As of 2021, the only statewide law regarding hoverboard use is in California, and violations carry a fine of $250 per infraction. Apart from that, in 2015, New York City officially banned the purchase, sale, and use of hoverboards within city limits. Currently, there is no federal law regarding hoverboards, and though some U.S. cities have brought the question to the ballot, as of 2021 none have passed legislation officially.